Saturday, March 01, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 53

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 6 year-old daughter (AKA Maddie). For some strange reason Maddie had decided to take a 'vow of silence' and made it known to us through sign language that she wasn't going to talk for the rest of the day. For someone who can be a non-stop chatterbox I suspected this wasn't going to last very long. Kids do the weirdest things... :)

2 year-old Georgia sat close by in the living room (where we could see her) watching a Maisy Mouse dvd while we all prepared to play a game at the dining room table. Maddie went to the gaming cabinet and selected Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus. In this game players attempt to attract cats and dogs to their flea circuses. Each cat is worth one point and each dog is worth two points. At the beginning of the game the card deck is shuffled and each player is dealt 5 cards. Each card represents an attraction or act worth between two to four points. Each round a player plays one of these cards face up in front of them which represents the current act at their circus and takes the corresponding number of points worth of cats and dogs from the pile in the middle of the table. Some special cards allow you to play more than one card or take cats and dogs from other players.

Cats and dogs attending my flea circus

Sure it's a kids game but it's a Knizia-designed kid's game. It's light, it's fast and there is strategy involved in who to target with certain cards. It was a close and exciting game and we didn't know who would win until the very last minute. We all enjoyed it and the final scores were Maddie 1st with 21 points, Grandma 2nd with 20 points and myself 3rd with 19 points.

I was amazed that Maddie had still not said a word even when she won. She then mimed that she wanted to go and watch a Bratz cartoon dvd which she wanted me to put on for her. That was fine as it would give Grandma and I a chance to play a two player game together.

After setting Maddie up I chose The Downfall of Pompeii. This is a game that had not been played since June 2007. We'd previously played it three player with Maddie, Grandma and myself but I'd always wanted to see what it was like playing with just two players. Now was my chance.

In this game players first attempt to place their followers (represented by small wooden hexagons) into buildings on the map of Pompeii and the when Mount Vesuvius erupts they attempt to have their followers vacate the city from any of the seven gates. The person who has the most followers alive at the end of the game is the winner.

The card deck consists of buildings, omen cards and two AD 79 cards. There is a special way of constructing the deck so that the AD 79 cards appear at certain stages of the game and trigger events.

The board as Mount Vesuvius erupts. I am red and Grandma is black

At the end of the first phase of the game I had placed 30 people on the board and Grandma had placed 27. The 7 Omen cards ended up being distributed fairly evenly with me having 3 people in the volcano and Grandma 4.

In the second phase of the game you try to get your people out of the city. You have 6 turns before the lava starts flowing. Then the fun begins. You draw lava tiles from a cloth bag and the initial placement of the tile is based on what symbol is on the corner of the tile. After that you must place further tiles of the same type adjacent to other tiles of that type. This allows you to place a lava tile on to square containing your opponent's followers and then throw those followers into the volcano. The amount of followers in the volcano at game end is used as a tie-breaker.

The lava spread at the end of the game

There is tension as you may only move two followers each turn and you never know where a lava tile will be placed each turn. As a lava tile will have to be placed adjacent to another with the same symbol you have a rough idea of where tiles will be placed if they are drawn. It's then a race of your followers to exit the city while you try to direct the lava in the direction of your opponent's followers.

I really enjoyed The Downfall of Pompeii as a two-player game. It was constantly tense and ended up being a very close game. I won with 18 followers having escaped the city with Grandma having 17 followers alive. We counted the followers in the volcano - I had 15 and Grandma had 14. Had she had only one more follower escape she would have equalled my score and won on the tie-break. That was close!

Oh, and Maddie lasted about two hours with her vow of silence!

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